Bringing Your New Cat Home
It's so exciting! You found your cat soulmate at the Hudson Valley SPCA and you just can't wait to bring your new furry feline home with you.
Remember that your new cat is overwhelmed and confused at this point. The smells and sounds in your house are alien to him or her and the place is unfamiliar. Those first few days in a new environment are so important. Here are some tried-and-true methods to make that transition easier for you and your new pet kitty.
GET YOUR HOUSE CAT-READY
Once comfortable in her new place, don't be surprised to find her at the top of your kitchen cabinets so, if you have something there you don't want disturbed, you may want to take it down at first. Look for holes and registers where she can climb into and cover them - you don't want to open up walls to find your new kitty.
CATS ARE TERRITORIAL
The most important thing to remember when bringing your new kitty home is that your new feline is very territorial. What does that mean? It means he's are feeling really uneasy about this whole thing. So many places to explore to see what is lurking in the shadows. So let's do your baby a favor and let's start him off in a guest bedroom, bathroom or laundry room first. Make sure your new cat's room has water, the same food given to him at the shelter, some toys, a clean litterbox and a scratching post. Your food and litter should not be close together.
Okay... you're ready to bring your new baby home! Bring her to her designated room right away. Ideally, you should restrict her exposure to the new family at first but when introducing her, sit on the floor and let her come to you on her own time. If she doesn't, leave and try again later.
He may not show much interest in food so don't worry. By the second day, your kitty will be hungry enough to start nibbling. Keep the food and water fresh.
ADVENTURER OR WALL-FLOWER?
Some cats are full of self-confidence and the adjustment time may be short. Some are shrinking violets. Give him time... it may take him a week or two to adjust, if he's a shrinking violet. If he shows signs of wanting to explore outside of her safe room, make sure other pets and family members won't startle her while she slowly expands her territory.
LET ME HIDE!
Because cats love small places, give her a place to hide if she feels she needs to. The cat carrier, a covered cat bed – even a box with an opening. Make sure that opening faces the door to the room so they can keep an eye out for "intruders".
LET ME SCRATCH!
Cats need to scratch. It relaxes them. Some like sisal and some like carpeting. Our cat manager can give you some idea about your new kitty's preference. Once established, it's not a bad idea to have a scratch post in every room just in case the need to scratch something comes up. Want to learn more about scratching posts? CLICK HERE.
HAVE ANOTHER CAT?
With the new cat safe in her safe room, the other cat or cats can smell her under the door and your new cat will get used to the other cat's smell in a safe environment. No face-to-face interaction in the first week, okay?
Feeding time is the best time to get them to know each other better because they see good things happen when they're together. Place your feeding dishes on opposite sides of the closed door and bring the dishes closer each time towards the door.
THE SOCK EXCHANGE
Time for the sock exchange! Take a clean sock and gently rub the newcomer along the face to collect facial pheromones (friendly hormones). Now, place that sock in the resident cat's area giving your kitty a chance to do some investigation. If you have Feliway (or another calming spray), spray it at the bottom part of the sock (not where you rubbed your new cat's face) so that, in theory, your resident cat will view them as his own.
Now take the other sock and do the same with your resident cat. You get the idea.
Now, with your resident cat safely stowed in a locked room, allow your newcomer to explore the house and spread her scent around. Do this exercise a couple of times a day. Depending on the sock reaction, you can let your resident cat explore your new cat's safe room.
TIME FOR PEEK-A-BOO!
Open up the sanctuary room just a hair while feeding so they can see each other. Do short sessions and offer a tiny amount of food. Then close the safe room's door.
Full open door? It depends on how the interactions are going but if you feel more "face" time is right, try three baby gates on top of each other (cats can jump, you know) or install a temporary screen door during feeding sessions. You can even use just one baby gate if you're standing by the door ready to close it if things get out of hand.
Play with your new cat inside the safe room and have another person play with your resident cat on the other side. Switch. You don't want your cats competing for your love. Playtime will associate happy times with the other cat.
LET'S GET TOGETHER
Okay, ready to get them together? Leave the safe room open and make sure your resident cat's litter box is safe and unchanged. Continue to feed them in each other's presence but in separate bowls. DON'T RUSH THINGS!!! Your new cat's happiness depends on your patience.
HAVE A DOG OR DOGS?
Install a strong baby gate (preferably at least 36 inches high) in the door to your cat's safe room. Let them see each other quickly and reward them when there is no growling or spitting with a yummy treat. Close the door. Repeat this process 5-10 times in a row, 2-3 times a day. Pay attention to body language - if they seem relaxed, extend the time they can see each other. Quit while you're ahead, though. Always close the door on a good note. Let your new cat set the pace. If your cat is afraid, slow things down. If she's curious and wants to jump the gate to greet your dog, you can introduce them in another room with your dog on a leash, just in case. When they behave well, reward each with a treat. They will eventually learn that being with each other is a great thing.
Keep your dog away from your cat's litter box - it's highly stressful for your cat and dangerous for your dog. Also, consider feeding your cat ona high surface like a window sill or dresser so it is not tempting to your dog.
Have a dog question? Send our Cat Manager an e-mail to cats@HudsonValleySPCA.org.
We will get back to you as soon as we can!